Chris, Camassia & Chaos.

Our gardening club, The Black Pear Gardening Club, meets monthly, with speakers during the winter months and garden visits during the summer.

For the February meeting we welcomed Stella Exley from Hare Spring Cottage Plants, York.

The Title of her talk was ‘Chris, Camassia and Chaos’.

Stella regaled us with accounts of the trials and tribulations she went through to provide camassia to Chris Beardshaw for his RHS Chelsea gold medal winning garden in 2015.

It started with a chance meeting at Arley Hall show, following which Chris contacted Stella, to arrange a visit to her nursery.  She holds the national collection of camassia and grows other hardy perennials.

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He showed Stella his plans for the show garden and she agreed to grow 2000 camassia, individually in pots, to provide the 1000 that he needed.
In order to do this she decided to actually grow 4000, this was on top of the 10,000 that she normally grew, nearly all single handed!

All her plants are grown outside on the floor with only a small poly tunnel and greenhouse to work in. That winter they were ‘blessed’ with two periods of snow which held back the development of the camassia. With her experience of growing them she knew they could not be forced on under cover, even if she had the facilities to do so.
The decision was made to rotate them in and out of the poly tunnel, for only two hours during the day and four hours at night, which she did wearing a head torch. She then started to feed them carefully with liquid feed so as not to scorch the leaves.

Chris visited the nursery to see the camassia in flower for the first time just before the show.camassia-gallery-about-gallery-07

Delighted with what he saw he asked Stella to choose the ones that would go on to the lorry for the garden. To make it more difficult they had to be transported trailer at a time down the narrow track to the waiting artic lorry.

Stella ended by showing us pictures of the gold medal winning garden.

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Following a question and answer session, she was busy selling some of the many pots of camassia she had brought with her all the way from North Yorkshire.
There was general agreement that this was one of the most interesting talks we have had.

Stella and the pots of Camassia she brought for sale at the meeting.

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I succumbed to the ‘Charms’ of Camassia leichtlinii ‘Sacajawea’ for our Green and white garden. It has ivory white flowers with variegated foliage.

You can visit Stella’s website: Hare Spring Cottage Plants.

The website for the Black Pear gardening Club: BPGC

Do you grow camassia?

Unless indicated otherwise all pictures are published with Stella Exley’s permission.

25 thoughts on “Chris, Camassia & Chaos.

  1. Strange, I was just planting my own Camassia seeds in a little pot before reading this! It really brought Stella’s work into view for me. What a mammoth task! Your gardening club and the garden visits sound so interesting. Amelia

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  2. Your last comment has me adding this to my list for sure….a large area in the arboretum at the Bishop’s Palace is planted with these…at the moment the snowdrops are putting on a show in the same area.

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  3. I bought some Camassia Blue Candle from Stella at RHS Chatsworth last year. They were delivered around September and I planted them in a tub. I noticed two had started to grow, but they are hidden under a blanket of snow at the moment. I had a lovely chat with her at Chatsworth and she persuaded me that they would be easy to grow and needed no mollycoddling. I am really looking forward to seeing them flower.
    Best wishes
    Ellie

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  4. Yes, I fell in love with Camassias after seeing a programme about Stella preparing for the show and then the show itself! 🙂 They are such gorgeous flowers, but sadly they don’t seem to like our dry summers (or are eaten by snails?) and I will have to replace some of them. How lucky you were to get her to your club for a talk!

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  5. That must have been a fascinating talk, the scale of planting is mind blogging! It must have been difficult to decide which plants to take! We have grown camassia in our previous garden they did provide a striking colour and height in May. Sarah x

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  6. Oh that would have been an interesting talk to have been at. I’m off to see if the nursery are attending any shows this year 🙂

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